The text of the legislation, which is a nonbinding resolution, lays out a broad vision for how the country might tackle climate change over the next decade, while creating high-paying jobs and protecting vulnerable communities.
Unlike a bill, this type of legislation is not presented to the president and cannot become law. Even if the Green New Deal passed in one or both chambers of Congress, separate legislation would have to be introduced to make any of the resolution’s goals a reality.
Much of the response to the proposal has focused on details that don’t appear in the resolution text. President Donald Trump, for example, suggested on Feb. 9 in a tweet that the plan would “permanently eliminate all Planes, Cars, Cows, Oil, Gas & the Military.”
I think it is very important for the Democrats to press forward with their Green New Deal. It would be great for the so-called “Carbon Footprint” to permanently eliminate all Planes, Cars, Cows, Oil, Gas & the Military – even if no other country would do the same. Brilliant!
Two days later, at a rally in El Paso, Trump repeated some of those claims, saying that he really doesn’t like “their policy of taking away your car, taking away your airplane flights, of ‘let’s hop a train to California,’ of ‘you’re not allowed to own cows anymore!’”
Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming made similar claims when she warned in a subcommittee hearing on Feb. 12 that the Green New Deal would “outlaw” plane travel, gasoline, cars and “probably the entire U.S. military.”
In a Feb. 8 interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson, an adviser to Ocasio-Cortez incorrectly said that an FAQ document promising all Americans economic security, even if they were “unwilling to work,” was doctored, and was not put out by Ocasio-Cortez’s office. Although the resolution does not include that language, it was part of a fact sheet Ocasio-Cortez provided to media outlets and at one time was available on a blog post on the representative’s website. Her adviser, Robert Hockett, later admitted he was wrong.
Here we explain what the Green New Deal includes — and doesn’t — and why there is confusion over some of the content.
Goals of the Legislation
The Green New Deal is modeled in part after Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, which was a large federal program designed to stabilize the economy and recover from the Great Depression. The Green New Deal focuses on tackling climate change, but isn’t concerned just with reducing emissions.
There are five goals, which the resolution says should be accomplished in a 10-year mobilization effort:
- Achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers
- Create millions of good, high-wage jobs and ensure prosperity and economic security for all people of the United States
- Invest in the infrastructure and industry of the United States to sustainably meet the challenges of the 21st century
- Secure for all people of the United States for generations to come: clean air and water; climate and community resiliency; healthy food; access to nature; and a sustainable environment
- Promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression of indigenous peoples, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth (“frontline and vulnerable communities”)
The primary climate change goal is to reach net-zero greenhouse emissions in a decade. “Net-zero” means that after tallying up all the greenhouse gases that are released and subtracting those that are sequestered, or removed, there is no net addition to the atmosphere. The goal, then, is slightly less ambitious than calling for no greenhouse gas emissions at all.
In October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded in a special report that in order to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels — and thereby avoid many climate change impacts — the world would have to reach net-zero emissions of carbon dioxide by the year 2050.
The resolution goes on to propose additional aims and projects to accomplish these overarching goals, but generally does not stipulate how the country will reach them. The resolution is also silent on cost and funding mechanisms.
We’ll go through some of the specific topics that have received the most attention.
One of the most ambitious and prominent goals of the Green New Deal is to meet “100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources.”
The resolution doesn’t offer any more details, other than to say that this would include “dramatically expanding and upgrading renewable power sources” and “deploying new capacity.”
One point of confusion has been what sorts of energy sources the Green New Deal would allow for electricity generation. Ocasio-Cortez’s office released an FAQ document that specifically said that new nuclear plants would not be permitted, although existing nuclear plants could stay. And in response to a question about carbon capture, utilization and storage, or CCUS, the fact sheet read, “We believe the right way to capture carbon is to plant trees and restore our natural ecosystems. CCUS technology to date has not proven effective.”
But the text of the resolution does not mention nuclear power or carbon capture, and as written, does not prohibit either method of generation.
In a press conference on Feb. 7 announcing the proposal, Markey told reporters that the fact sheet’s thoughts on nuclear power were not part of the resolution. He also added that while the resolution doesn’t mention carbon capture, “we are open to whatever works.”
The power sector is one of the biggest contributors to the nation’s carbon footprint, although in recent years emissions have begun to fall. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, generating electricity accounts for about 28 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.
If the country wants to reach net-zero emissions in a decade, one of the most important areas in which emissions reductions need to occur is transportation. Transportation recently surpassed power generation as the sector with the highest greenhouse gas emissions, and is responsible for about 28 percent of the U.S. total.
As with electricity generation, the text of the resolution that discusses transportation is open-ended. The Green New Deal requires “overhauling transportation systems in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as is technologically feasible, including through investment in— (i) zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing; (ii) clean, affordable, and accessible public transit; and (iii) high-speed rail.”
Some people, including the president, have said that the Green New Deal gets rid of cars or air travel. And as we’ve detailed elsewhere, some popular memes online have even suggested that the plan advocates building “trains over the oceans.”
The resolution does not call for that. It only states that transportation emissions should be reduced “as much as is technically feasible,” and suggests three ways of reaching that goal, including high-speed rail and zero-emission vehicles, which would include electric cars. There is no mention of air travel.
But air travel was mentioned in various FAQ materials produced by Ocasio-Cortez’s office.
In one FAQ that was given to NPR, one of the highlighted projects was to “totally overhaul transportation by massively expanding electric vehicle manufacturing, build charging stations everywhere, build out high-speed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary, create affordable public transit available to all, with goal to replace every combustion-engine vehicle.”
At another point, the FAQ was trying to explain why the goal was net-zero emissions, rather than none at all, and said that was “because we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast.”
Corbin Trent, Ocasio-Cortez’s communications director, said in a phone interview that any such interpretation of the fact sheets was not intended. “Obviously, no, we’re not trying to ban air travel,” he said.
Trent iterated that the Green New Deal does not include details in any other documents. “The resolution is what we’re focused on,” he said.
A third major industry the Green New Deal targets is agriculture. About 9 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gases stem from agricultural activities, including the release of nitrous oxide from soil and methane from livestock.
Once again, the agriculture section of the resolution is vague, stating only that one of the goals of the Green New Deal is “working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible, including— (i) by supporting family farming; (ii) by investing in sustainable farming and land use practices that increase soil health; and (iii) by building a more sustainable food system that ensures universal access to healthy food.”
Although the resolution doesn’t say anything about cows, the animal is frequently mentioned by critics of the Green New Deal. The president referenced cows twice — once in his tweet, and again in El Paso.
And on Feb. 12, Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming incorrectly said livestock would be banned and that ice cream was “another victim” of the proposal. “Say goodbye to dairy, to beef, to family farms to ranches,” he said. “American favorites like cheeseburgers and milkshakes will become a thing of the past.”
Cows were discussed in two FAQ documents, which likely explains the preoccupation. As mentioned earlier, the fact sheet sent to NPR reads, “We set a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, in 10 years because we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast.”
Cows are one of several animals that produce methane as a result of digesting food. In a process known as enteric fermentation, microbes in the cow’s stomach help break down cattle feed, releasing the gas. The majority of the gas is actually exhaled from the mouth, or belched, not released from the back end.
In the U.S., methane production from livestock accounts for almost a third of the greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, and more than a quarter of all methane emissions. Methaneis about 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a century.
Along with its environmental goals, the Green New Deal aims to provide economic security for Americans.
One of the proposal’s key goals is to “create millions of good, high-wage jobs and ensure prosperity and economic security for all people of the United States.” The plan also guarantees “a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States.”
Both FAQ sheets — the version sent to NPR and the one posted to Ocasio-Cortez’s website — however, go further, and include a provision guaranteeing economic security to “all who are unable or unwilling to work.”
There is nothing in the Green New Deal about providing for people who are “unwilling to work,” but the inclusion in the FAQ materials has proven to be one of the most contentious aspects of the Green New Deal’s rollout.
In his Feb. 8 interview on Fox News, Hockett, a Cornell law professor and adviser to Ocasio-Cortez, falsely said that no materials released by the congresswoman included the “unwilling to work” language, and must have come from a doctored version.
He later told the Daily Caller that he had been mistaken, and had been thinking of a doctored version of the Green New Deal that Ocasio-Cortez had tweeted about. That fake version of the Green New Deal falsely claimed that men would be required to urinate in “an empty milk jug instead of a toilet.”
On Feb. 9, after a Washington Post reporter noticed the disconnect, Ocasio-Cortez responded on Twitter, noting that there were various versions of the Green New Deal and the FAQs.
The Not So Fabulous “Green New Deal” introduced by New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been one I have been aiming to call your attention too. Time to wake up, my dear brothers & sisters and keep an eye on what our elected officials are trying to do again.
When I first heard about this “Green New Deal,” I had to go back a replay it. I honesty couldn’t believe the first outline of it they released. Basically, their first idea was to get rid of farting cows and airplanes. Can you imagine getting rid of cows because they fart. I mean really, it is a known fact, you eat, you are eventually going to have to toot! Their theory on getting rid of the farting cows was because they emitted Methane into the atmosphere, thus having a huge effect on our ozone layer and leaving a huge carbon foot print on the planet. Get rid of cows, now when you get rid of cows, you are not only talking about cows in general, but you are also talking about all the products we get from cows. No more milk for kids, of course, I am sure they will find some reason milk is no longer good for us too. Getting rid of yogurt, I take offense to this because I am basically on a yogurt diet. Cheese. would be gone. And for all of you that like those big old steaks, forget it, they would be history. We would all be turned into vegetarian by the government. Don’t get me wrong, I love vegetarians to death and have no bones to pick with them whatsoever. My point is the government is going to start to tell us how to eat and what we put on our cereal in the morning. I guess if you do away with the cow though, there would be no milk, therefore, no need for cereal. So Cortez wants to put the dairy farmers out of work and the cereal business out of business. Way to go, Cortez!
Now moving on to the other fine point of the “Green New Deal.” Cortez also wants to do away with cars that emit carbon monoxide into the air. I use to work in our family’s garage and I can tell you first hand, the government monitors the carbon monoxide that is emitted from all cars and trucks these days. They actually go into the factories and test the cars randomly to see if they pass the government standards for carbon monoxide emission. While we are talking about transportation, let’s not dare forget that Cortez also wants to get rid of airplanes and all nuclear plants in this country. Let’s take airplanes first, she started out wanting to get rid of all airplanes in this country. Since the representative from Hawaii spoke up, Cortez has now allowed one plane to fly a day. One plane, hmm, there goes that quick business trip to St. Louis or Salt Lake City. But planes are harmful to the atmosphere so they have got to go. I wonder if she has thought about traveling overseas or is she going to say, we don’t need to travel overseas anymore? What kinds of limitations is this woman trying to place on us.
Then she wants everything to be powered by Solar and Wind energy. That’s great but what if we have had cloudy days like we have had here for the past week. I sure wouldn’t be on the internet sitting in a lighted office. I would be pacing the floor wondering when the Sun was going to shine again so we could have power. A windmill would be the same way, no wind, no power. I don’t get it, what is she trying to do, but us back in the dark ages again.
Now only is the “Green Deal” one of her so called achievements but another one is losing New York, 25,000 new jobs. Yes, Amazon was going to open up its second headquarters In New York. Well Cortez thought that was a horrible idea. She didn’t get it though. She kept mentioning instead of giving Amazon 3 billion dollars. She thought the state of New York was going to hand Amazon 3 billion dollars, cash money. There was no cash, it was incentives that New York was going to give Amazon for building their new corporate office in the state. She still hasn’t gotten it, she is still holler we could use that 3 billion dollars to do this to our schools and do that to our neighborhood. There is no actually money Cortez, it was just incentives that New York was giving to Amazon. Geez!
I wonder how people like Cortez way of thinking even got elected in the first place. Did she make these so called grand ideas public before she was elected? She might have built the Green New Deal up but did she give the people of New York the full details of what her plan contained? I doubt it. People like her are dangerous and we need to keep a very close eye on them, She wants to tell us basically what to eat, no cow, then she wants to tell us what to eat, how to get around, how to travel, get rid of cars and airplanes. People like Cortez are very scary indeed, they want to take way our rights and if we stand idly by, they will succeed. The United States will never know freedom again. We will become a third world country. living back in the dark ages? Might sound good to some but it doesn’t to me.
The government interferes in our lives enough. It is time we put some of our representatives in their place and let them know they are working for us. They aren’t elected to go to Washington and destroy our country, which seems like that is now the main agenda in our country right now.
I forgot to add when it came out that Amazon was relocating its headquarters to another state, Cortez celebrated. She said it was a great win for the people of the boroughs and the state of New York. But the governor and mayor had other words to say in regards to her leading the charge against Amazon moving to New York.